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Rostock: brick-Gothic architecture with a maritime flair.

Rostock: brick-Gothic architecture with a maritime flair.

The harbour is the heart of the maritime city of Rostock. Although there may be fewer sailors on the quayside these days, the harbour still shapes the character of the city. It is also the venue for major events, such as the Hanse Sail in August, which attracts hundreds of sailing ships and a million visitors each year.

During Hanse Sail, up to 300 tall ships, sloops, cruise ships, ferries, museum schooners, vintage yachts and other sea-going vessels are paraded in front of delighted spectators in and around Rostock's harbour. This maritime festival is a special occasion for the entire Baltic region, a celebration of friendship between nations featuring music performed on a number of stages, two fireworks displays, a medieval fair, a Ferris wheel and plenty more entertainment spread out along nearly four kilometres. All of this takes place against the magnificent backdrop of Rostock's old quarter with its characteristic deep-red brick buildings dating from Hanseatic times. These include the city fortifications, parts of which have been preserved, including a section built by General Wallenstein during the Thirty Years' War. The eastern part of the old quarter contains a long stretch of wall near St. Peter's Church, and close by you can still see part of the Fishermen's Bastion with some historical canons. Inside the city walls, three of the original four monumental town churches still remain. The largest is the Gothic St. Mary's Church in the centre, while St. Peter's on Alter Markt square is located in the oldest part of Rostock. Its tower offers stunning views across the town and the Baltic Sea. Other notable buildings include the Gothic town hall with its baroque-period exterior, the late-Gothic Hausbaumhaus merchant's house and the neo-Gothic guildhall. A particularly endearing landmark is the old lighthouse in Warnemünde, an ideal destination for an excursion.

The traditional seaside resort of Warnemünde with its pretty, colourful fishermen's cottages is a quiet and relaxing place. It's a great place to explore the little stores, cafés and restaurants as well as the Alter Strom, an old arm of the river Warnow that exudes maritime charm with its fishing and sailing boats bobbing on the water. Despite all the history and the pride it takes in its grand seafaring heritage, Rostock is also a modern city. It has some remarkable examples of GDR and contemporary architecture, such as Lange Strasse, which was rebuilt in the late 1950s under the direction of the town's young chief architect Joachim Näther and the experimental Hyparschalen buildings created between 1966 and 1972, which still stand out today. They include the Teepott restaurant in Warnemünde, the Kosmos office building in the Südstadt district and the multi-purpose hall (now a shopping centre) in the Lütten Klein district. At the end of the 1990s, architects Gerkan, Mang and Partner built a chic shopping mall behind the facade of a former hotel. And while we're on the subject, Rostock is a great place for shopping. Distinctive pedestrian zones such as Kröpeliner Strasse have been established between Doberaner Platz square, Neuer Markt, Universitätsplatz square and the city harbour. This area is also great for eating out, offering everything from fresh fish to international cuisine, while those with a sweet tooth should make sure to pay a visit to the chocolatier de Prie at the harbour. The Kröpeliner Tor district with its pubs and clubs also has friendly restaurants, bars and cafés offering delicious food and refreshing beer. It's always worth taking a closer look either side of the main streets, where small shops and pubs in old warehouses and lovingly restored town houses are just waiting to be discovered. And what you will always find is the soul and charm of this extraordinary city.

City Highlights

The beach at Rostock-Warnemünde is a highlight of this Baltic resort. Awarded the blue flag for the high quality of its water (for swimming etc.), the beach stretches for around 15 kilometres and is more than 100 metres wide in some places. The beaches in Warnemünde and Markgrafenheide consist of fine sand, while the beaches around Wilhelmshöhe and Diedrichshagen are more rugged in character. With family beaches and sections set aside for nudists and people with dogs, there's plenty of space for everyone to enjoy themselves. Windsurfers benefit from a dedicated area offering easy access to the water.

The spectacular views of Warnemünde harbour with the ships coming in and out are enough to make any trip to this beautiful old Baltic resort a memorable one – and that's before we even get to the sailing regattas. Warnemünde is home to AIDA cruises, which operates one of the world's most modern and exclusive cruise fleets from the resort's harbour. Perhaps not quite so luxurious, yet all the more exciting for it is the 'Stettin' – the world's oldest ice-breaker, which regularly drops anchor in Warnemünde. If you get there at the right time, you can even climb aboard and take to the high seas on this veteran vessel – a maritime experience to remember!

The park on the site of the International Garden Show in Rostock is not only renowned for its impressive size. Naturally the park has plenty of greenery, colourful flowers, waterways and trees. However, the site is also home to a number of absorbing attractions such as the Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum, the open-air maritime exhibition and a 'green classroom'. Other highlights include the Willow Dome. Made from willow trees and other natural materials, this is the world's largest living construction.

Up until the 19th century, Warnemünde only had two roads with houses on them: the Vörreeg (front row) and the Achtereeg (back row), both running parallel to the Alter Strom canal. Today, the Vörreeg is known as Am Strom, and the Achtereeg is called Alexandrinenstrasse. With its cafés, bars, ice-cream parlours and boutiques, the Vörreeg is an excellent place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon or evening. Those looking for a quieter, more refined atmosphere should head for Alexandrinenstrasse. Lined with pretty little fishermen's huts and captains' cottages, the street has become a popular promenade along the water's edge.

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